Review by WBirkin

"If Diablo and WoW had a baby"

There are a lot of rare gems in gaming out there on the PC. One of these rare gems of awesomeness is a little game called Dungeon Runners, a free dungeon crawler released by NCSoft (Creators of Guild Wars, Tabula Rasa, and City of Heroes/Villains.)

Basic Idea:
If you've played Diablo then you should know what a dungeon crawler is. This is more or less a spoof off of Diablo, combined with some aspects of Guild Wars and World of Warcraft. If you haven't played either of these games, here's the basic idea: Go into a dungeon, kill monsters, gain levels, get phat loot. Rinse. Repeat. You have the option of a PvP based game with Arena combat or a PvE based game with dungeon crawling. It's a simple formula, but something doesn't need to be complicated in order to be fun and addicting.

Character Design:
You have the basic job of picking between 3 classes. Mage, Ranger, and Fighter. You can create hybrid classes and such by mixing and matching skills between the trainers, perhaps you can make a Ranger who specializes in melee combat, in essence creating a Rogue. You have 3 character slots to work with, so you can make 1 of each class.

As for your actual options, you have access to a handful of faces, hairstyles, and color of hair, there isn't too much going on in terms of customization, but there's enough options to make yourself look cool and unique considering this is a free game after all.

Graphics:
The graphics are very cartoony but still rendered in 3D. It has the same unique charm that World of Warcraft does in terms of fantasy art. You can zoom all the way out and adjust the camera angle as necessary so you can create your isometric Diablo view or go for an over the shoulder angle like in World of Warcraft and other MMOs. There is no first person view unfortunately. Overall it's not bad at all considering it's free. It's a lot better looking than Runescape for example.

Audio:
I really love the music and voice acting for all of the NPCs. There are some very interesting tracks, even a fantasy sounding rap track for the first boss dungeon of the game. I think they did a good job experimenting with the music, as well as keeping around some of the familiar sounds like items dropping and gold clinking and potions being quaffed.

Gameplay:
This is like any other MMO for the most part, so I'll stress what makes this game different from other MMOs. Here are some of the major highlights:

* Adjusting the difficulty of the dungeons in order to gather more loot, as well as allowing a 5 person party.

* You can equip up to 8 skills in total, as well as passive skills you want ‘activated'this is where the Guild Wars aspect of things kicks in, because you have to make important decisions on what abilities you want available to you during your dungeon run. You can change these at any time you desire however even in the middle of a dungeon.

* This game does a WONDERFUL job parodying WoW. Everything from the ! and ? symbols above quest givers to some of the spell names like ‘Shadow Word: Smackdown' and “Heal Thyself, not Others”. The game does a great job parodying the whole MMORPG genre itself, NPCs talking about certain dungeon runners being ‘overpowered' people collecting ‘D&D Figurines' and other great comedy awaits which is half the charm of this game in my opinion.

* As I mentioned you start the game with a choice of 3 classes, but as you go through the game you can train from the masters of those 3 classes and thus become something like a Mage in Plate or a Berserker Warrior or a Paladin or a Magic Casting Ranger, you have many many options at your disposal if you get creative.

Additional Information:
So… the game is free right, so there has to be a catch? Well there sort of is. It's optional membership, the fee being 5 dollars per month, which isn't bad at all compared to the 12 dollars you pay for World of Warcraft. What's the differences between a member and non-member account? Well, here's your answers:

* Members can use built in Voice Chat to use their mics.
* Members are given access to a bank in order to packrat away their items.
* Members get queue priority and a member only server.
* Non-Members are limited to Blue quality items and won't have access to the Yellow, Purple or Rainbow (yes Rainbow) quality items.
* Members can use stackable potions (they stack in 5's) where non-Members must use non-stackable potions which take up extra bag space.

That about wraps it up. There isn't any huge downside to being a non-member except perhaps not being able to use any of the super awesome loot you might get as you defeat more difficult monsters in the game. However, being a non-member simply makes the game more challenging which for some people would make the game fun. Overall I say give this game a shot, you can download the game by checking out the Dungeon Runners website.

Overall Score: 8/10


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 09/17/07

Game Release: Dungeon Runners (US, 07/02/08)


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